All Things Newz

Novartis fails again to reuse anti-inflammatory drug to treat lung cancer

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ZURICH — Efforts by Novartis to show that an established anti-inflammatory drug could also suppress cancer growth were dealt a final blow when a third big lung cancer trial failed to produce the desired results.

The Swiss drugmaker said on Monday its canakinumab drug did not slow the progression of non-small cell lung cancer in a late-stage trial, when given to prevent relapse in patients that were diagnosed early enough for tumor-removal surgery.

The failure in the latest trial, called Canopy A, is a setback for Novartis after canakinumab failed in two separate studies last year where the drug was tried in combination with other treatments on lung cancer patients at a more advanced disease stage. “Consensus expectations for this high-risk project remained zero or low with the remaining market exclusivity for canakinumab limited until 2028,” said Zuercher Kantonalbank analyst Laurent Flamme.

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He estimated annual sales of around 300 million Swiss francs ($317.9 million) by 2026 for the drug as an adjuvant treatment for non-small cell lung cancer.

The drug is approved to treat a number of inflammatory disorders under the brand name Ilaris with $284 million in revenues last year. Credit Suisse analysts said annual sales could reach more than $1 billion in that indication.

A cardiovascular disease trial in 2017 produced early indication that the drug might also play a role in preventing lung cancer by suppressing a type of inflammation that drives cancer growth. That prompted Novartis to launch a lung cancer trial program.

Novartis needs to boost its pharma development efforts as it is conducting a strategic review of its off-patent generic drug business Sandoz that might result in a sale.

It has billions at its disposal for deals to strengthen its research pipeline after selling its 33% stake in Roche back to the Swiss rival last year for $20.7 billion.

($1 = 0.9436 Swiss francs) (Reporting by John Revill in Zurich, Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Bernadette Baum)

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